Thursday, April 28, 2016

Go Boldly in Fair Use, Copyright Litigation and Life

Floor of the Reception Building at CERNAs I sat in silence one day, the phrase "go boldly" entered my mind. Go boldly where? Ideas bounced around my head and I want to share a few with you.

We're approaching the end of the spring semester and the end of my copyright class.  Graduate students have spent the semester learning and thinking about copyright.  They learned for real what the law says, and now rely on that rather than hearsay.  Once they learn about Fair Use, it becomes a part of the ongoing conversation.  They like Fair Use, but then realize that a final determination of Fair Use does not rest with them (either as a user or a creator).  They then get cautious about Fair Use.  Finally, once they've dug into some court cases, they seem to re-embrace it.  My message to them is indeed a version of "go boldly" and use Section 107 (Fair Use).  Yes, use it or we might lose it.

Their third assignment is to dig into a copyright court case of their choosing.  It is one of my favorite assignments, because of what students learn from it, what they then share with each other, and the boldness of both plaintiffs and defendants.  In fact, some might even say that the courts themselves have been bold.  Users of materials sometimes continue their use even after being contacted by the copyright owners (e.g., Legg Mason).  Copyright owners may push ahead with appeals even when it doesn't seem as if they will win, because they clearly have something they want to prove (e.g., GSU).  And the courts can boldly decide, overturn, and set new precedents (e.g., HathiTrust).

Being bold in terms of Fair Use, in terms of using the law overall, in terms of contesting specific uses does not happen if there are no original works in fixed form.  This is the week after Prince died. He and David Bowie epitomized bold. Both boldly followed their passion. Both boldly created new music up until the end of their lives.  Both are models, I think, of how we should live.  Be giving, supportive, creative, thankful, gracious, there is no tomorrow. 

By the way, since our creative class is thankfully not going away, let's make sure that they understand how to protect their works, how to use the works of others, and especially how to push the boundaries of Fair Use.  That will help them truly go boldly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Would you be willing to ensure the quality in MSLIS education?

It wasn't until my MSLIS program was approaching its time for our ALA accreditation rview that I considered who the reviewers actually are.  The ALA accreditation review site visit is conducted by a team of library and information professionals.  There is an ongoing call by ALA for people willing to do this.  I'm pasting below text from the ALA web site on this opportunity.  Those interested need to attend training at the ALA annual conference, and be willing to put in the time and effort needed to conduct a review of a specific program.  While you would be volunteering your service, I can tell you that this is a critical role in assuring that the accreditation process works well.


The Office for Accreditation seeks library and information professionals with an interest in providing quality assurance for ALA accreditation of master’s-level library and information studies programs to participate in the accreditation process as External Review Panelists. This is a great opportunity for professional development and service to the profession.

Please see ERP service information for timeline, responsibilities, and typical activities. External Review Panelists need not be ALA members.

External Review Panel pool members receive the Office for Accreditation's e-newsletter Prism and email notifications of training opportunities. For more information about the role of an External Review Panelist in the accreditation process, please contact Laura Dare, Assistant Director, at or 312-280-2435.

Minimum qualifications

  • Master's or doctoral degree in LIS or related field
  • Seven years of professional experience as a librarian, information professional, or LIS educator
  • Demonstrated interpersonal and team participation skills
  • Willingness and ability to commit up to four consecutive days onsite during the academic year for site visits
  • Participation in training sessions at ALA Annual Conferences
  • Demonstrated analytical skills
  • Demonstrated ability to write logical and clear analytical reports
  • Demonstrated ability to communicate effectively with administrators, staff, students, and the public regardless of culture, gender, ethnicity or race
  • Appreciation for and understanding of the higher education environment and peer review

Preferred qualifications

We are particularly in need of librarians and educators with specializations and experience in the following areas:
  • Public librarianship
  • School library media
  • Archives and records management
  • Information science
  • Information technology
  • LIS graduate program administration
  • Service to diverse populations
  • French language skills
  • Spanish language skills

To apply

If you meet the above criteria, please complete the External Review Panel application and submit along with your current CV or resume to

Monday, April 18, 2016

Article: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Google's Online Library

According to ABC news, the U.S. Supreme Court today let stand the lower court rulings which favored Google.  Rather than Google's book digitization being "epic scale" infringement, the lower courts have said "that Google can provide small portions of the books to the public without violating copyright law." 

How many years has this been winding its way through the courts?  11 years.  I hope the publishers will talk about what they gained from this effort or what changes they have already made based on it.

Beyond the Book: Copyright Cases Roll On

copyrightIn the April 8 episode of Beyond the Book, Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer, and Christopher Kenneally talked about the GSU copyright case and its most recent decision, which favored GSU.  In the podcast, Albanese noted, "...Judge Orinda Evans found that 41 of 48 alleged infringements considered at trial—and reconsidered on remand—were protected by fair use, and for a second time, she declared GSU the prevailing party in the case..."  At the end of the 10-minute podcast, Albanese and Kenneally talk about status of the AAP case against Google, and whether it might be heard by the Supreme Court.  (Hint...that decision might come today.)  This is a very good episode to listen to!

Jazz, Blues, "Stairway to Heaven" and the Facts of Life

G O T VWhen students in my graduate class get to the topic of music and copyright, the conversation is fast and passionate, with lots of questions.  We all recognize that some musical forms are built upon improvisation and borrowing from other works.  Both jazz and blues are like this, and we see this in rock and hip hop, too.

We can each list a song that sounds like something else.  We wonder if permission was sought or needed, and then follow with curiosity when a lawsuit is filed.  One of the latest to catch our eyes is the lawsuit against Led Zeppelin over the song "Stairway to Heaven." Among the articles on this is this one entitled "Led Zeppelin are not thieves: 'Stairway to Heaven' fight rests on a nearly impossible copyright standard." 

At various points during the semester, I mention Lawrence (Larry) Lessig and the talks he has given on our remix culture.  With every music lawsuit, he words come to mind.   If remix is again a fact of life, how can the law be changed to support it?  I don't have an answer, but I do think that it is a question that needs to be tackled.  Soon.